Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection (PS4) Review

Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection (PS4) Review

Before getting into this, I have to admit to a personal bias for the Uncharted series. There was a sad period in my life when I intended to give up my gaming ways after the PS2 generation. Sure, I’d enjoyed a torrid love affair with videogames since childhood, but decided it was time to let them go. Then one day a friend showed me Uncharted 2…and I owned a PS3 within a week. There’s something about the way Naughty Dog fused the language of blockbuster action movies with traditional action and platforming gaming elements that appealed to my lizard brain. This is the series that confirmed me as a gamer for life and so it was with childish glee (as well as some mild depression regarding Uncharted 4’s removal from the Christmas release line up) that I picked up my copy of The Nathan Drake Collection to dive back in…and thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed.

Unchartedcollectioninsert2First off, it has to be said that this collection is a straight-up remaster and repackage of three PS3 blockbusters. There is no new content here, not even a demo for the upcoming PS4 sequel. Nope, the disc is just serving up three classics with a fresh coat of paint. All of these beauties now hum at 60 frames and burst off of your TV screen in 1080p. To cram all that onto a single disc, that means the developers ditched all of the old “making of” goodies and even the multiplayer modes for the two sequels (although anyone who buys the collection will be able to access the Uncharted 4 multiplayer beta in December to ease that pain). The only new options are the ability to take gameplay photos on your PS4 (yay?) as well as a new literally painless easy Explorer mode and an unlockable Brutal difficulty mode that lives up to its title. Thankfully, the games themselves are more than enough to make this disc a worthy addition to your PS4 library.

Unsurprisingly, 2007’s Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune benefits the most from the remastering process. While the game was ground-breaking at the time, 8 years is a long time in the gaming world and the plastic HD visuals loaded with screen tearing aren’t that impressive these days. Fortunately, the team in charge of sprucing up Drake’s Fortune went all out, loading on softer textures, more detailed character models, and gorgeous lighting effects— they even improved the troubled aiming system slightly. The result is one hell of a facelift that returns the wow-factor to a game that was showing its age. This is a thing of beauty that will have even the most hardened Uncharted fan excited to play as Nathan Drake again. Sure, the scale of the action isn’t quite on the level of the sequels and the final third gets a little repetitive with its endless “hide n’ shoot” sequences, but there’s still no denying that the work that went into cleaning up this title is damn impressive and shows a massive improvement.


As for Uncharted 2 and 3…well, the remastering isn’t quite as dramatic. That’s not a knock on the developers, though. If anything, it’s a compliment to how damn good these games looked in the first place. Aside from touching up the lighting effects and the 1080p/60fps boost, the games are pretty much exactly the same as they were before. Of course, that means that Uncharted 2 remains quite possibly the greatest action a game ever made, overflowing with astounding set pieces at designs. It’s a milestone and a masterpiece that is always worth a replay. As for Uncharted 3, the tech specs are a slight step up and there are some incredibly clever level designs (the desert hallucination sequence remains a favourite of mine for its immersive and creative design), but the developers put a little too much emphasis into trying to outdo U2 rather than creating a fresh experience. Much of Uncharted 3 feels like a remix of Uncharted 2 and the revised hand-to-hand combat isn’t quite as smoothly implemented as promised. Yet, that just means that it’s one of the greatest action adventure games ever made rather than the greatest. So…you know…not a bad pay off.

To get all three Uncharted games on a single disc (along with the upcoming multiplayer beta) is nothing to sniff about, especially considering the incredible work done to bring Drake’s Fortune up to the aesthetic standards of its superior sequels. If you’ve never played these games before, then this could quickly become your favourite PS4 disc. Even if you have, this is a worthy excuse to plow through Naughty Dog’s trilogy of action gaming masterpieces again to gear up for the release of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End in March. Sure, a little more extra content would have been nice, but when you get three full brilliant and beautiful games on a single disc, it’s hard to complain too much. Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection is a slice of action gaming joy well worth a look for fans of the series and an absolute must-own for newbies. If you’ve never dabbled in Uncharted, get it immediately. You are about to have so much fun with a controller in your hands that it should probably be illegal.

Split Personality: Tomb Raider and Uncharted

Split Personality: Tomb Raider and Uncharted

It’s probably because of the increased realism in visuals combined the rising quality of the writing, but I find that as I play more recent games, I’m having a problem. It’s the same problem I will occasionally have with certain kinds of movies, where I’ll see a character do something, or watch an event unfold and think to myself, “I don’t buy that.”

Read moreSplit Personality: Tomb Raider and Uncharted

The Problem With Tomb Raider & Uncharted

The Problem With Tomb Raider & Uncharted

It’s probably because of the increased realism in visuals combined the rising quality of the writing, but I find that as I play more recent games, I’m having a problem. It’s the same problem I will occasionally have with certain kinds of movies, where I’ll see a character do something, or watch an event unfold and think to myself, “I don’t buy that.”

This is not something that happens when I watch a cartoon, or play a ludicrous game like Katamari, where you simply have to throw up your arms and accept whatever lunacy is on show. But once a game starts to get “serious,” elevating itself to more than just mindless entertainment, those aspirations to realism make it harder to accept the more unrealistic aspects of the game. It’s something that’s happened in the Uncharted series, and most recently, the excellent Tomb Raider.

In Uncharted we are presented with Nathan Drake, a contemporary, happy go lucky adventurer cut from the same cloth as Indiana Jones. He’s a man that rubs shoulders with a lot of morally questionable characters, including, at times, his own surrogate father, Sully. Despite the gray area he inhabits on the ethical spectrum, he’s a man that cares, a man that is capable of love, kindness and doing the right thing. That’s the story we get anyway, and that’s the story that reliably plays out in cut scenes as Drake struggles to protect his friends, his romantic interest, and even just the sanctity of a cursed tomb or some other archaeological site. The story of Uncharted is largely about how a man struggles with right versus wrong, but ultimately chooses to do the right thing, even if it costs him a fortune in plundered treasure. The game of Uncharted however, is about Nathan Drake wading into pirate installations, museums and military camps, killing every single thing in sight that isn’t his partner. It’s an issue that is even touched on—but not tackled head on—in Uncharted 3, as one character asks him just how many people he’s killed to make it this far. Nathan Drake may be a likable guy that you’d want to go to a sporting event with and maybe have a beer afterwards, but he’s also killed—literally—thousands of people without remorse and somehow avoided the death penalty that most nations would sentence him to.

The same is true in the new Tomb Raider. On the one hand, Rhianna Pratchett has crafted a credible, believable, likable young woman. Lara Croft is a frightened, completely out of her depth college student that finds herself on an island populated with crazed castaways that have formed a cult. She shivers in the cold, she limps and whimpers as her injuries pile up, and when she kills for the first time in a convincing case of self-defence against rape, her tearful, traumatized reaction is both realistic and heart breaking. This is a girl that is at absolute rock bottom, someone you can sympathize with and care about.

Five minutes later, like Nathan Drake, she is an unstoppable killing machine, walking off bullet wounds in moments thanks to regenerative health, and, despite no prior military training, head shotting enemies with both a pistol AND a bow. Once again, players are jolted from the reality of the story—a girl coming to terms with the life-and-death struggle of her situation—into the reality of a mainstream action game that dictates players feel bad ass, and are empowered enough to take down a flood of enemies in minutes or less. The story of the game is trying to communicate struggle, moral and physical conflict and ultimately finding an inner strength to rise to the occasion. The mechanics of the game make the audience feel like death incarnate, a notion reinforced by Lara shouting during firefights, “I’m coming for all of you, you bastards!”

The problem here is one of divergence. On the one hand, the cut scenes and stories of these games give us nuanced, emotionally credible characters, people we like and relate to. On the other hand, the need of an action game to make players feel empowered means that the body count in just 10 minutes of play usually surpasses—by a wide margin—the casualty count of the average action film. And it’s perfectly understandable why that is; a story is a passive experience, meant to be absorbed. A game, on the other hand, is an interactive experience where the entertainment comes from having something to do, ie, killing lots and LOTS of people in brutal, cinematic ways. Realistically, for the character of Lara Croft, after an attempted rape and first kill, she should have been so traumatized that only a close network of friends and professional therapy would heal her emotional scars and make her functional again. In a game, however, that’s no fun at all, so she picks herself up, ignores the fact that she’s been stabbed, caught in a bear trap, repeatedly dropped from great heights and is sporting multiple bullet wounds, to become a lethal master marksman and archer with a Wolverine-like healing factor that shrugs off fatal wounds in 10-15 seconds.

Unfortunately, this is an incompatibility that looks like it’s here to stay for most big, AAA releases. Some games, notably Bioshock and Spec Ops: The Line occasionally take the brave stance of actually questioning the easy, almost thoughtless brutality of games, but most don’t. After all, likable characters are fun, but so is killing a lot of people. Tomb Raider and Uncharted are merely the best examples of this uneasy, high budget coexistence.

It’s probably because of the increased realism in visuals combined the rising quality of the writing, but I find that as I play more recent games, I’m having a problem. It’s the same problem I will occasionally have with certain kinds of movies, where I’ll see a character do something, or watch an event unfold and think to myself, “I don’t buy that.”

This is not something that happens when I watch a cartoon, or play a ludicrous game like Katamari, where you simply have to throw up your arms and accept whatever lunacy is on show. But once a game starts to get “serious,” elevating itself to more than just mindless entertainment, those aspirations to realism make it harder to accept the more unrealistic aspects of the game. It’s something that’s happened in the Uncharted series, and most recently, the excellent Tomb Raider.

In Uncharted we are presented with Nathan Drake, a contemporary, happy go lucky adventurer cut from the same cloth as Indiana Jones. He’s a man that rubs shoulders with a lot of morally questionable characters, including, at times, his own surrogate father, Sully. Despite the gray area he inhabits on the ethical spectrum, he’s a man that cares, a man that is capable of love, kindness and doing the right thing. That’s the story we get anyway, and that’s the story that reliably plays out in cut scenes as Drake struggles to protect his friends, his romantic interest, and even just the sanctity of a cursed tomb or some other archaeological site. The story of Uncharted is largely about how a man struggles with right versus wrong, but ultimately chooses to do the right thing, even if it costs him a fortune in plundered treasure. The game of Uncharted however, is about Nathan Drake wading into pirate installations, museums and military camps, killing every single thing in sight that isn’t his partner. It’s an issue that is even touched on—but not tackled head on—in Uncharted 3, as one character asks him just how many people he’s killed to make it this far. Nathan Drake may be a likable guy that you’d want to go to a sporting event with and maybe have a beer afterwards, but he’s also killed—literally—thousands of people without remorse and somehow avoided the death penalty that most nations would sentence him to.

The same is true in the new Tomb Raider. On the one hand, Rhianna Pratchett has crafted a credible, believable, likable young woman. Lara Croft is a frightened, completely out of her depth college student that finds herself on an island populated with crazed castaways that have formed a cult. She shivers in the cold, she limps and whimpers as her injuries pile up, and when she kills for the first time in a convincing case of self-defence against rape, her tearful, traumatized reaction is both realistic and heart breaking. This is a girl that is at absolute rock bottom, someone you can sympathize with and care about.

Five minutes later, like Nathan Drake, she is an unstoppable killing machine, walking off bullet wounds in moments thanks to regenerative health, and, despite no prior military training, head shotting enemies with both a pistol AND a bow. Once again, players are jolted from the reality of the story—a girl coming to terms with the life-and-death struggle of her situation—into the reality of a mainstream action game that dictates players feel bad ass, and are empowered enough to take down a flood of enemies in minutes or less. The story of the game is trying to communicate struggle, moral and physical conflict and ultimately finding an inner strength to rise to the occasion. The mechanics of the game make the audience feel like death incarnate, a notion reinforced by Lara shouting during firefights, “I’m coming for all of you, you bastards!”

The problem here is one of divergence. On the one hand, the cut scenes and stories of these games give us nuanced, emotionally credible characters, people we like and relate to. On the other hand, the need of an action game to make players feel empowered means that the body count in just 10 minutes of play usually surpasses—by a wide margin—the casualty count of the average action film. And it’s perfectly understandable why that is; a story is a passive experience, meant to be absorbed. A game, on the other hand, is an interactive experience where the entertainment comes from having something to do, ie, killing lots and LOTS of people in brutal, cinematic ways. Realistically, for the character of Lara Croft, after an attempted rape and first kill, she should have been so traumatized that only a close network of friends and professional therapy would heal her emotional scars and make her functional again. In a game, however, that’s no fun at all, so she picks herself up, ignores the fact that she’s been stabbed, caught in a bear trap, repeatedly dropped from great heights and is sporting multiple bullet wounds, to become a lethal master marksman and archer with a Wolverine-like healing factor that shrugs off fatal wounds in 10-15 seconds.

Unfortunately, this is an incompatibility that looks like it’s here to stay for most big, AAA releases. Some games, notably Bioshock and Spec Ops: The Line occasionally take the brave stance of actually questioning the easy, almost thoughtless brutality of games, but most don’t. After all, likable characters are fun, but so is killing a lot of people. Tomb Raider and Uncharted are merely the best examples of this uneasy, high budget coexistence.

Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale (PS3) Review

Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale (PS3) Review

Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. may have been the first game to capitalize on gamer nostalgia by pitting the Big N’s most famous faces against each other for rounds of fisticuffs that would answer schoolyard arguments about the relative awesomeness and ass-kickery between characters like Mario, Link, and Samus once and for all. An instant hit, the franchise has become a staple for every Nintendo console from the N64 on and also inspired developers to load up their projects with references and in-jokes that help knowing gamers justify their controller-bound obsessions. It seemed inevitable that one day one of Nintendo’s competitors would try to whip up their own version of Smash Bros. The concept is just too instantly appealing and the cross-marketing possibilities offer up way too many dollar signs to be ignored. So, in the year of the potential apocalypse, Sony has finally decided to throw their hats into the franchise-beat em’ up ring just before the world goes boom. Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale is exactly what you’d expect. It’s a Smash Bros. clone with only minor changes to the formula and you know what? That ain’t a bad thing. The unique Smash Bros. fighting mechanics have always been incredible and it’s about time someone knocked it off just like every other fighting game on the market.

Stop me if any of this sounds familiar. Playstation All-Stars offers gamers a chance to join in epic four-player battles. You’ll pick up powerful items, string together combos, slap around three opponents simultaneously, and eventually build up to super moves that put on an animated light show and substantially alter matches. Along the way you’ll be able to toss together hilariously unexpected fights like watching PaRappaTheRappa smack Big Daddy in the face and enjoy interactive levels that change, mutate, and even hurt you mid-fight. So far, so similar. It’s Smash Bros. with a Sony remix. There are some new additions though. Battles aren’t fought and won with health meters. Instead your normal attacks will be focused on building up your attack bar which, borrowing a technique from Marvel Vs. Capcom, has three levels of intensity each more powerful than the last. Points come from killing other players with these special attacks. A one bar attack will kill off a single opponent, while a 3 bar attack could kill off everyone more than once (and of course, you’ll get a sweet, sweet cut scene with the triple attack as well). It’s actually a pretty effective change to the Smash Bros. formula that adds a bit of risk/reward strategy to the expected button mashing shenanigans.

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The 20 fighters that come along with the game are a nice mix of icons and obscure fan favorites pulling together a group of fighters from diverse and differing worlds n’ consoles like Little Big Planet’s Sackboy, God Of War’s Kratos, Uncharted’s Nathan Drake, MidiEvil’sFortesque and both the good and evil versions of Infamous’ Cole MacGrath. There are some weird omissions (no Crash Bandicoot…seriously?), but it’s safe to assume that there will be plenty of DLC characters to fill in the gaps. While the general gameplay is fairly accessible (especially for Smash Bros. veterans since the controls are essentially the same), not all of the fighters are created equal. Some like Kratos allow players to annihilate the competition on the first spin of the disc, while others like Twisted Metal’s Sweet Tooth will require a lot of practice just to be able to fill up the attack bar. It’s clear that the designers went out of their way to make sure that every character had their own unique fighting style, but sometimes the gap between the fighters is so extreme that it’s pretty well inevitable that updates will be required to level out the playing field. For now it’s balanced enough for a party, but first time players will definitely not be able to use all of the fighters right off the bat.

As far as gameplay goes, all the expected modes are accounted for. There’s a single player arcade option that takes about 30 minutes to work through with each character including the final boss. It’s definitely the most disappointing aspect of the entire game. Not only is it ridiculously easy (often feeling more like a training mode than anything else), but the cut scenes used for the wrap around stories for each character are done entirely in stills. Obviously fighting games aren’t exactly played for their single player stories, but this is a disappointment. Part of the appeal of this sort of game is getting to see amusing rivalries play out between familiar characters and you’ll only get to see that with one pre-match rivalry dialogue scene between each character. It’s definitely a missed opportunity and a bummer. That said let’s face it, fighting games live and die on multiplayer and arcade story modes are essentially a bonus feature at this point. Playstation All-Stars delivers the multiplayer goods in style. Local matches will lead to just as much laughter, joy, and bitter resentment between friends as Smash Bros., while the online multiplayer is focused on tournament play. The game has been loaded with extra costumes, items, and trophies to be earned online that should extend the gameplay of this title exponentially. While it would have been nice to see the developers go all out with an epic single player adventure with these familiar characters like Smash Bros. Brawl, that didn’t happen and at least the straight up fighting is ridiculously addictive/entertaining. Hey, they gotta’ leave something open to explore in sequels right? Games aren’t standalone projects anymore people! They are all franchise pilots.

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The good news is that while there’s no denying that Playstation All-Stars is dripping with gooey globs of Smash Bros. DNA, the game is very much its own beast as well. It’s just different enough to stand alone, while delivering all the joys of that Nintendo beat em’ up party. Sure there are problems and inconsistencies, but nothing out of the ordinary for the first chapter in any new franchise. Sony has delivered their own franchise fighter that should suck up hours and hours of the lives of many longtime PS gamers. The multiplayer is fantastic and that’s all that counts. Updates and DLC will expand the fairly limited roster of characters and levels soon enough, while the inevitable sequels with smooth out all the rough edges. Throw in the fact that a Vita version comes free with every disc and smoothly interacts with its console daddy, and you’ve got yourself a pretty deep fighting game well worth the investment. Sony could have easily fallen on their face with this thing and while it’s inevitable Smash Bros. fans will still scream “rip-off” at the top of their lungs, it would be mistake to dismiss this if you’re a fan of that franchise. Smash Bros. games only tend to come once per console generation, so this is the perfect way to ease the pain as you wait for Nintendo to debut their shiny new Wii U version. This is sure to be a damn fine new fighting game obsession for lovers of the genre and will hopefully be successful enough to warrant sequels. Sony done good on this one folks. There would have been sales without this kind of loving attention to detail, but thanks to the effort we can officially expect a new fighting franchise rather than the sad knock-off embarrassment that this thing could have so easily been.